Everyday Tips for Living With Bipolar Disorder

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Casarella, MD on September 11, 2020

There’s a lot you can do to help manage your bipolar disorder. Along with seeing your doctor and therapist and taking your medicines, simple daily habits can make a difference.

Start with these strategies.

Set a schedule. Many people with bipolar disorder find if they stick to a daily schedule, it helps them control their mood.

Pay attention to your sleep. This is especially important for people with bipolar disorder. Being sleep-deprived can sometimes trigger mania in those with the condition. It can also be a sign of a flare-up of your symptoms. For instance, just a few nights of less sleep may mean that a manic episode could be coming on. Or if you start to sleep a lot more than normal, it might mean you’re depressed.

Use these tips:

  • Go to sleep and get up at the same times every day.
  • Relax before bed by listening to soothing music, reading, or taking a bath.
  • Don't sit up in bed watching TV or scrolling through your phone.
  • Make your bedroom a calming space.
  • If your sleep patterns start to change, tell your doctor or therapist.

Exercise. It may improve your mood whether or not you have bipolar disorder. And you’ll probably sleep better, too.

If you’re not active now, check with your doctor that you’re healthy enough to get started. Keep it simple at first, such as walking with a friend. Gradually, work up to working out for at least 30 minutes a day on most days of the week.

Eat well. There’s no specific diet for people with bipolar disorder. But just like anyone else, choosing the right kinds of foods can help you feel better and give you the nutrients you need. Focus on the basics: Favor fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains. And cut down on fat, salt, and sugar.

Tame stress. Anxiety can worsen mood symptoms in many people with bipolar disorder. So take time to relax.

Lying on the couch watching TV or checking your social media accounts isn't the best way to go. Instead, try something more focused, like yoga or other types of exercise. Meditation is another good choice. An easy way to do that is to simply focus on your breathing for a few minutes, letting other thoughts come and go without paying them a lot of attention.

You can also listen to music or spend time with positive people who are good company.

Make adjustments athome and at work. Are there stressful things in your life that you might be able to change? Whether it’s in your family or on the job, look for solutions.

For instance, could your partner handle more of the chores at home? Might your boss be able to cut down on some of your responsibilities if you’re overloaded? Do what you can to simplify your life and make it easier.

Limit caffeine. It can keep you up at night and possibly affect your mood. So don’t drink a lot of soda, coffee, or tea. And take it easy on chocolate, too, because it has caffeine. You can even cut these items out completely. It’s often best to do that gradually so you don’t get headaches and other signs of caffeine withdrawal.

Avoid alcohol and drugs.They can affect how your medications work. They can also worsen bipolar disorder and trigger a mood episode. And they can make the condition harder to treat. So don’t use them at all.

Bipolar disorder can be a lot to deal with. Many people turn to alcohol or drugs and have a substance abuse problem.

If you think that you have a problem with alcohol or other drugs, get help now. Bipolar treatment may not be enough. Substance abuse often needs its own separate treatment. You may need to tackle both conditions at the same time.

Talk to your doctor or therapist about your options. Look into local substance abuse support groups. Consider calling the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration help line: 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Dealing with your alcohol or drug issues is a must for your recovery.

Show Sources

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, American Psychiatric Association. 
National Alliance on Mental Illness. 
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA). 
American Psychiatric Association. 
National Institute of Mental Health. 
Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Bipolar Disorder. 
Compton, M. Depression and Bipolar Disorder, ACP Medicine.

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